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Commitment to Diversity, Inclusiveness and Equity

The Cornell Computational Biology Department and PhD Graduate Field Commitment to Diversity, Inclusiveness and Equity

Computational Biology as a field and as a scientific profession needs to become more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. Many recent events in the United States have bleakly illustrated the racism and inequity in all aspects of our society. We, in the Cornell Department of Computational Biology and the Cornell PhD Graduate Field, have work to do to address these issues by committing to greater awareness and to finding ways to make substantive changes. We see these commitments falling into at least three critical areas important for our department and graduate field, as well as important for our scientific discipline as a whole.

Cornell Computational Biology Commitment to Diversity

The Field of Computational Biology, and our Cornell Computational Biology community in particular, falls well below the national averages for underrepresented minorities in our country. Our lack of diversity makes it difficult to attract and retain talent, particularly from underrepresented groups, and this means that our discipline is not as vibrant, healthy or strong as it has the potential to be. We must increase the representation of talented minds from communities that are historically underrepresented in science, including Black, Brown, Indigenous, LGBTQ+ and others who have historically been denied opportunity, faced direct or indirect oppression that has prevented entry to our field, or that have left the field because of racial, equity or inclusion issues.

Our commitment at Cornell includes altering our PhD graduate field admissions practices to omit the GRE requirement and to give critical consideration to recommendation letters for all individuals who show interest in the field, particularly those whose opportunities have historically been limited. Similarly, at the faculty recruitment level we are looking beyond traditional channels and assessment criteria and expanding our efforts to bring in diverse talent. We are also working to develop support systems that will lead to personal and professional success for those who face barriers due to discrimination while at Cornell.

Cornell Computational Biology Commitment to Inclusiveness

Lack of inclusiveness is a corrosive force within a community and manifests in both obvious and subtle forms. Underlying issues can range from information not being shared or made available to those in marginalized groups, from how to navigate aspects of Cornell programs or lab culture, to not getting the same clear message of being welcome in social and research groups at various levels. Our program commits to initiating and continuing to develop a Survival Skills course to provide insights and critical information, increase the number of URM speakers as part of our seminar series. Top down and bottoms up encouragement of the Computational Biology community interactions in both social and research contexts, and a commitment from members to utilize available resources to recognize, reduce and prevent unconscious bias and lack of inclusiveness.

Cornell Computational Biology Commitment to Equity

Our commitment to improving equity is not aimed only at communities within Cornell but also at Computational Biology as a larger scientific discipline. We are committing ourselves to listen to those most impacted by issues that produce a lack of equity and to work to change the environment to bring more inclusivity and equity. As a scientific discipline, we are now regularly discussing in lab meetings and broader groups, aspects of racism and bias that have impacted Computational Biology research, as well as economic and institutional forces that bias data collection and minimize the study of underrepresented groups. We are committed to including these conversations in our teaching and working to rectify these issues in our research.

Our work on improving Diversity, Inclusiveness and Equity in Computational Biology at Cornell - and in our Scientific Field more broadly - is an on-going process whereby we hope to continually improve and find ways to make substantive impacts. If you have questions about our efforts or suggestions about how we can do better, please reach out to our department Leader for Diversity and Inclusion (LDI), Dr. Jason Meze.